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Data From: Inflorescence and flower development in Orchidantha chinensis T. L. Wu (Lowiaceae; Zingiberales): similarities to inflorescence structure in the Strelitziaceae

Cite this dataset

Kirchoff, Bruce; Liu, Huanfang; Liao, Jing-Ping (2020). Data From: Inflorescence and flower development in Orchidantha chinensis T. L. Wu (Lowiaceae; Zingiberales): similarities to inflorescence structure in the Strelitziaceae [Dataset]. Dryad.


The monotypic Lowiaceae remains the least known family in the plant order Zingiberales, yet it holds an important key to unraveling the phylogenetic placement of the families Musaceae, Heliconiaceae, Strelitziaceae, and Lowiaceae. After nine phylogenetic studies the (Lowiaceae, Strelitziaceae) clade is the only stable clade that has emerged in this half of the order. This study was undertaken to verify the unusual inflorescence and flower structure in Orchidantha, and to search for new characters that might be used in future phylogenetic analyses. We describe both inflorescence and flower development in a previously unstudied species, confirm inflorescence morphology in the genus, and compare the structure of the inflorescence in the Lowiaceae with that of the Strelitziaceae, its potential sister group. 

The inflorescence of Orchidantha is born at the end of a vegetative shoot and is composed of two lateral branches that each bear four bracts and a single flower, before aborting. The fourth bract and its associated flower form the highly reduced flower cluster (florescence) that characterizes this genus. In technical terms Orchidantha has a polytelic synflorescence that lacks a main florescence (it has a truncated polytelic synflorescence) and bears solitary flowers in coflorescences on determinate enriching branches. The enriching branches produce a fixed number of bracts before aborting (i.e., they are special paracladia). Many of these features are shared with the Strelitziaceae.

Similarities between the Lowiaceae and Strelitziaceae include inflorescence structure, the presence of a long prolongation of the ovary, and a delay in the formation of the third sepal during flower development, a character that is also shared with the Musaceae. Inflorescence and flower structure is now well established in this small, but important family.


Standard procedurs for Scanning Electon Microscopy (SEM) were used to photograph inflorescenced and flower developmental stages.

Usage notes

Overview of the archive

The raw data of morphological studies are dissection notes, and photographs. Both types of data are included in this archive. 

The first author's (Bruce Kirchoff's) dissection notes are in the file "04 Orchidantha chinensis field notes.pdf" in the root directory of the archive. The images are in the directories described below.

There are two type of images included in the archive: 

(1) Photographs taken in the field or lab, generally with a Cannon F1 film camera, and scanned to digital by a commercial scanning service.

(2) Scanning Electron Micrographs (SEMs) taken either at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, or at the South China Botanic Garden. Please see the manuscript for a detailed description of the techniques.

The film camera photographs are in a single directory and are indexed with metadata in the file "01 Photos and SEM.xlsx" or in the comma separated text value (.csv) mirrors. The descriptions of these two csv files are below. 

The SEMs are in three different subdirectories, described below.

Directory Structure of Archive with Information about the Contents of Each Directory

. . . (root directory)

01 Photos and SEM.xlsx - Excel file with file names and metadata for photos and SEMs on separate
02 Photos.csv - Comma separated text file with same data as Excel file for photos (only).
03 SEM.csv - Comma separated text file with same data as Excel file for SEMs (only).
04 Orchidantha chinensis field notes.pdf
05 Readme.rtf - This file in rich text format.
06 Readme.txt - This file in plain text text format.


- Scans of film camera photographs taken in the field with a description of the image, field locality, voucher information, information on which images came from the same original material, and cross references to the manuscript figures.

     SEM\by apex\

- The images are sorted into subdirectories based on the inflorescence apex that was photographed. All images in the same directory are of the same apex. See the "Photos and SEM.xlsx" (or csv) file for cross references, locality and voucher information.

     SEM\by dev stage\

- The images are sorted into subdirectories by developmental stage. The sorting is rough and there are multiple images at each developmental stage (i.e., in each directory). "See Photos and SEM.xlsx" (or csv) for more information and cross references. 

     SEM\by order used in Paper\

- The SEMs are renamed so that they sort in the order that they are used in the plates. See "Photos and SEM.xlsx" (or csv) for a cross reference on the file names.


National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31670336